- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 12, 2001

Sitcom America

"Programs from the 1960s such as 'Gilligan's Island' and 'Star Trek' were produced by an America that was benignly confident about its mission to spread the gospel of democracy around the globe. 'Gilligan's Island,' [University of Virginia professor Paul A.] Cantor observes, is sort of an ideal version of America. The castaways have left a decadent old continent and they have come to a virgin land. Old social barriers are eroded and they live in a realm of relative equality and natural peace. They show an amazing ability to tinker and come up with new devices, but they are not ruled by technology in any bothersome way. The assumption is that wherever Americans go, they can settle down and create healthy communities; they can Americanize the globe. 'In its own simplistic way,' Cantor writes, '"Gilligan's Island" portrays America at the peak of its self-confidence, convinced both of its moral goodness and its power to back up its claims to superiority.'

"The program 'Star Trek' expressed those same optimistic assumptions — on a galactic scale. Captain Kirk was always talking about the 'Prime Directive,' which was the order the crew of the Enterprise had received never to interfere in the affairs of other planets. But, in fact, they interfered in almost every episode and almost always in the same way: They deposed tyrants and created democracy."

—David Brooks, writing on "Farewell to Greatness," in the Sept. 17 issue of the Weekly Standard


Effeminate culture

"We live in a feminist and effeminate culture. Because of this, at best, as a people we are uneasy with masculinity, and with increasing regularity, whenever it manages to appear somehow, we call for someone to do something about it.

"For most boys, the right general response to effeminacy is natural (as in yuck), but instruction and correction is still necessary. This is because the boys do not know how to make the distinction between that which should be mocked in themselves and that which must be honored in the girls. When parents help their boys broaden their scope (beyond rolling around in the dirt), this is not so that the distinction between the boys and their sisters can be blurred, but rather so that it might be reinforced in many other areas.

"The fact that some of the distinctions seem to us arbitrary — why is taking out the garbage manly and using the garbage disposal womanly? — should cause us joy and satisfaction, not confusion. Profound forces are at work. We should let our great-great-grandparents teach us something."

—Douglas Wilson, in his new book, "Future Men"


American sledgehammer

"According to friends, Marianne — whom Newt Gingrich in 1994 called his 'best friend and closest adviser' — was devastated by the dissolution of her marriage. 'I am still shocked all this is happening,' she said months after receiving the news. Gingrich will not talk publicly about the divorce; he says he simply wants to move on.

"The personal lives of public figures have long held a fascination for the American public. But although divorce and infidelity still make good fodder for news stories, they have become so commonplace, they hardly merit a raised eyebrow. To my knowledge, not a single word of censure was directed at [actress] Meg Ryan for having left her husband and young son for another man. And to the extent that Newt Gingrich was criticized, and he was, it was not for his infidelity or divorce per se but for his hypocrisy as a champion of 'family values' even while he was conducting an affair with a woman 23 years his junior.

"A sledgehammer is being taken to the American family, and there is no reason in the world why we should be expected to stand by in silence, to say nothing and, above all, to do nothing. It is time for the rules to be reconsidered."

— William J. Bennett, from his new book "The Broken Hearth"


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